There's been a great deal of hootin' and hollerin' from all sides about the Second Amendment since the Slaughter-of-the-Innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary, and just about none of it has shown much knowledge of history. Why, I've even heard it claimed that the Revolutionary War was fought because the Brits wanted to take away our guns! Say what? That's so far off the mark it doesn't even qualify as revisionist history!

What just about none of the hootin' and hollerin' folks seem to have is any awareness of the historical reasons for the Second Amendment. There were two reasons. Oh, all right, if you insist (some do), let's make it three reasons.

The reason that some insist on is so We-the-People can defend ourselves from the government. All right, that was a concern back in the 1780s when the Constitution was being written. After all, many European nations, including Great Britain, had occasionally used their armies to control their citizenry. Taking on the Government has been tried here a few times, from the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 to the Branch Davidians in 1993. Never worked out. Not even when eleven states banded together and raised armies to fight the Federal government. A reasonable conclusion to reach, based on history, is that trading blows with the Feds is a losing proposition.

Side note: I haven't done the research myself to confirm this, but I've seen it written that the Battle of Gettysburg began when Lee's Army of Northern Virginia mistook Federal troops for militia, and thought they would be easily defeated. Big mistake.

Anyway, we've got elections. If you don't like what the government is doing, vote the bastards out. If the bastards doing what you dislike so badly are reelected by a substantial margin, maybe you should re-think your position. Either that or just put up with majority rule—that's the way democracy works.

There were two other reasons that made the Second Amendment necessary. Both have to do with the early USA being a poor country.

The United States of the late 18th Century—and far into the 19th—was a frontier nation. Get beyond the Allegheny Mountains, and you were pretty much on your own against bandits, hostile Indians, or anyone else with ill intent. There wasn't much of an army out there to come to the rescue until the mid-19th Century. In those circumstances, you damn well better be armed and know how to shoot.

The other reason ties directly into that. The country couldn't afford to maintain much of an army. The entire early US Army was only about two thousand men, the Marine Corps was only a company or two serving on ships and guarding naval installations, the Navy was out to sea. Oh yes, can't forget: the Constitution only allows a standing army for two years at a pop. That's right, every two years Congress has to pass, and the President sign, a bill authorizing the Army to exist for two more years.

The early United States relied mainly on militias, which were state-level quasi-military units. In time of emergency they could be called up for limited lengths of time, 90 days being fairly common. Being poor, the Federal government couldn't afford to provide weapons for the militias called when they were up—the militiamen had to bring their own guns! The government did, however, provide ball and powder.

Given those two reasons, you can clearly see the necessity for the Second Amendment in the late Eighteenth Century—and well into the 19th.

None of those reasons apply or are viable today. So it's pretty clear that the Second Amendment has out-lived its. . .

Oops. I better stop right there, I'm approaching, almost stepping into, very dangerous ground. Hey, I've got friends who are far better armed than I am, and have far more recent shooting practice than I do.

The phrase "...better armed than I am..." raises the question of what do I have in terms of firepower. None of your damn business, that's what I have.

I'm hardly going to advocate disarming the country, regardless of the positive effect disarming the citizenry has had on homicide rates in some other countries. But I'll tell you what I do think is a marvelous idea.

When I enlisted in the Marines the Corps was making the transition from the M1 to the M14. (Neither was an assault rifle like the later M16, both were main battle rifles.) I carried an M1 in infantry training, the rest of the time my rifle was an M14. I really, really preferred the M14 to the M1.

You see, the M1 was loaded with an eight-round clip. You'd shoot eight times, then you'd have to stop shooting to reload. The M14 had a twenty-round magazine. That meant I got to shoot twenty times before I had to stop to reload! Which made me and my fellow Marines much deadlier in a fire fight.

I don't hunt myself, have no problem with people who do, and under the right circumstances I would hunt. Shooting is a skill—I'm proud of the fact that I qualified as a Rifle Expert in the Marines. Target shooting is fun and I've enjoyed the times I've gone to a range and shot off fifty or a hundred rounds with rifle or handgun.

Except for combat and some range-shooting, I've never had need for more than one round at a time in my firearm. To amplify a bit. The qualification course I fired in the Marines was fifty rounds. Thirty of them were slow fire—load one round at a time into the rifle. The other twenty were rapid fire, loading five rounds at a time. Hunters, I understand, almost never need more than three rounds at a time in their rifles, and usually only one.

So what I suggest is, for those who really get a kick out of cranking off 20-30-50 rounds at a pop without having to reload, keep their high capacity magazines at the range. It's do-able, just as in some places bars only have beer licenses, and people who drink hard liquor bring in their own bottles, pay for set ups, and keep their bottle (marked with their name) behind the bar.

Which brings me full circle back to the Sandy Hook Slaughter-of-the-Innocents. How many of those little children might have been able to get away if Adam Lanza had had to stop shooting every five or ten shots to reload, instead of thirty? Maybe not many, but certainly some.

Another point I want to make before wrapping this up: arming teachers.

There's a world of difference between taking careful aim at a paper target on a range, and firing at a human being who is also shooting. It's a lot harder to hit the person than the piece of paper. Cops miss, soldiers miss, even Marines miss. I know, I've seen the misses in combat, even when Marines were trying to aim at someone visible. I've missed myself. Fortunately, I didn't hit an innocent.

I wouldn't bet on a teacher in the high stress of that kind of emergency not accidentally shooting a child.

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